Today’s Internet is filled with pleas for help. “How to lose 10 pounds in a week?” “How to lose weight fast and easy?” “How to lose weight quickly without exercise?” “How long do you starve yourself to lose inches in your waist?”
These questions are exactly why we have these weight problems in the first place. What we should be asking ourselves is… “How to lose weight and keep it off?” “How do you lose weight once, and never do it again?” “How to maintain a healthy diet with a busy lifestyle?”
We’ve developed such a negative association with food and exercise. Food is bad and exercise is a punishment. No wonder we have problems. We are burdened by tracking our calories on an app. We check our weight multiple times in a day (and yes… of course you “gained weight” after eating. DUH.) We freak out the moment our clothes fit a bit more snug than usual.
I myself have fallen to these “detox diets,” and let me tell you, I not once came out better than where I started. I may have felt much better physically, I may have lost a bit in my waist, but inside, my body was craving certain foods (hello ice cream) and once I was “allowed” to have them, I went balls to wall.
This past February, I completed the Whole 30 Challenge. I learned so much about food, about cooking, and about how my body responds to certain foods (such as gluten, which gives me really crappy heart burn.) While Whole 30 introduced a lifestyle of eating whole unprocessed foods, I fell off the track really bad when I finished the reintroduction period. Like I ate all of the things and the bit in my waist that I was so proud to shed off, totally gained back.
My point is this. Restricting yourself is like telling a small child not to do something, it becomes so much more tempting. The problem with this is as soon as you’re allowed to indulge, you go overboard and it’s much harder to get back on track.
Now, for those who don’t live a healthy lifestyle in the first place, many of these “diets” or programs are a great way to shake some things up and change your perspective. In fact, Melissa Hartwig, Whole 30 creator hates to call her program a diet at all. She considers it a program that changes the way you perceive food. Now we’re talking. While it does significantly restrict your diet, the purpose of Whole 30 is to teach you about what popular foods are made of, teach yourself what your body disagrees with, and when all sudden done, you’re free to live your life as you please.
So, from my experience completing Whole 30, I’ve decided to live my life eating intuitively. I do not diet. I do not perceive food as the enemy. I do not perceive exercise as a punishment. I do not partake in “cheat days.” If I’m hungry, I eat.
This kind of eating works quite effectively if your nutritional blueprint (your natural eating habits) lean more healthy than unhealthy. However, it may not work for everyone. For example, if you’re rarely eating vegetables, chances are, when eating intuitively, you won’t eat vegetables.
So what does all of this mean?
If you’ve done a fairly good job of maintaining a healthy lifestyle or if you naturally gravitate towards healthy options, intuitive eating is a great way to give you the freedom to sustain a balanced diet. If you need a kick in the ass, (which is okay!) start with an anti-diet program like Whole 30 or Paleo to learn as much as you can about the ingredients in foods we consume daily, cooking, and how you react to certain foods. Knowledge is power and once you develop knowledge in your nutrition, your blueprint evolves, leaning more healthy.
When you think you’re ready to dive into an intuitive eating style, following these tips will ensure long term success.
- Every choice counts. Strive to make healthy decisions, take baby steps in the right direction, steps that actually help you towards your goal.
- Drink a glass of ice water before meals. This helps suppress your appetite a bit, ultimately helping you eat less at each meals.
- Find out if you’re bored hungry or hungry hungry. A great way to find out is to ask yourself if you’d eat an apple. If so, it’s time to eat.
- Focus on how you feel. Get in tune with what helps and hurts your energy levels. If eating a bagel makes you to want to curl up in bed, only eat one when you can actually curl up in bed.
- Stay active. Since you’re going to be eating both nutritious and not so nutritious foods, stay active to keep your energy up and your waist slim. Park a bit further away from the store entrance, opt for stairs, or just get your sweat on.
- Fit your cooking to your lifestyle. Make it easy for yourself to eat healthy. If you like cooking, cook. If you find yourself short on time when it comes to cooking, save yourself from eating out and order pre-cooked meals from food delivery places like Hello Fresh or Blue Apron.
The most important tip is to live with balance. If you don’t have a balance in your nutrition, your health (and sanity) will suffer. No one looks back and says “I’m so glad I didn’t enjoy that triple fudge brownie sundae.” They eat that brownie sundae and enjoy the hell out of it.
And… I’ll just finish this blog post with a picture of me absolutely shoving my face with a burrito. SO good.